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Thursday, October 1, 2009

Charles E. Bairstow

Recently, while arranging photographs in the archives' files, I became re-aquainted with a series of Spanish-American War portraits featuring Charles E. Bairstow (1880-1958) of Waukegan.

The photographs were donated to the museum in 1962 by Bairstow's widow, Elsie Ferguson Bairstow, and portray a youthful Charles and his friends as they were about to head off to war.

Photo of Charles Bairstow (right standing) with Waukegan High School football, classmates Raymond Lindson, Willie Putnam and Julius Balz, 1898. This was possibly the last high school portrait of the friends.

The Spanish-American War is a blip on the radar of American history, lasting only from April to August, 1898. The outcome of the war between the United States and Spain was that the U.S. gained control of Cuba, the Philippines, Puerto Rico, and Guam.

More significantly to Lake Countians, the war was the reason for the establishment of the Naval Training Center Great Lakes in North Chicago. The U.S. Navy figured prominently in the war, and the U.S. Navy Department decided to establish a new site for training sailors. Because of the number of recruits coming from the Midwest, a site in that region was suggested. Illinois Congressman George E. Foss and Chicago businessman Graeme Stewart were key in the campaign to locate the training center, and Chicago businessmen donated the land. Construction of the base began in 1905, and the dedication was held in 1911.

This group portrait, taken on June 9, 1898, includes (standing left to right) Charles Bairstow, Philip H. Kinsley, Brown Thacker, (seated left to right) Ben Thacker and Gray Detweiler.

An informal photograph taken in 1898, possibly by Charles Bairstow, on board a ship (standing) Ben Thacker, Brown Thacker, Phil H. Kinsley, (seated) Gray Detweiler and Jackson.

This portrait (left) is one of my most favorite in the archives' collections. The composition, clarity and charm of the portrait is extremely engaging, and I believe reveals a deep friendship between Herbert Amet (seated) and Charles Bairstow.

Herbert was the younger brother of inventor, Edward Amet, who is known for his work in the early motion picture industry, and who created movies about the Spanish-American War.

Charles Bairstow married Elsie Ferguson in 1909 in one of the "biggest church weddings of the year."

Interestingly, Charles also served in World War I and World War II.

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